Thursday, February 28, 2008

Guess what!!

FINALLY---we have broke down and purchased a Country Living Grain Mill.
I have wanted a hand mill for a long time now but have never been able to say "o.k, I'll spend that large of an amount of money on it." It is after all a bit expensive. Yes, I could have gotten a smaller/different one or even an electric one, however I like non electric items (guess why) and the comments (many) on this particular grinder are very very good. Enough said.
So this year---with the direct deposit of my income tax money already here---I decided it was "nigh" time to just do it. Kind of like Nike---but better and longer lasting.

(The picture is from Walton Feed that has a nice web site that compares some of the different grain mills---both hand and electric--among other things.)
I emailed the other day and asked Country Living Grain Mill company about a "blemished" model which supposedly are still top quality and come with the full warranty of the non blemished models. They are selling it to me for $60 less than the non blemished plus throwing in a power/extension handle to boot. Nice.
As I said I have looked and looked at these mills, watching and searching for a used one but unfortunately never able to find one. The few that come up on Ebay go for close to original price. So...I am happy to say the least.
The gentlemen I spoke with said they are running behind a bit and it will be about 2 weeks before they get it shipped out so when I gets here I will grind some different things and post some pictures. Supposedly you can taste the difference with fresh ground versus pre ground flours. I don't know if that is true but in my life I have found that home grown meat and veggies ALWAYS taste different than store bought so I highly suspect that the flour will too.

Now, in my slightly contemporary/mid century style home I have to find a place to permanently mount a grain mill. Hmmmm....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Planting time (maybe)

Today when I woke up the weather was very nice. Last night a storm came in and it was 57 when I woke up this morning---very balmy outside. So in that vain--and feeling somewhat better from my flu finally--I went out and worked in the garden. I got a 16 foot row turned over and put in a wheelbarrow full of sheep poops and turned them in. I collect these "special" poops off the top of our dam and they are pure nuggets---no hay/straw/weeds etc. I then weeded the asparagus and artichokes (both sending out expeditionary shoots to check the overall climate) and gave every bed I had worked in a bit of Kelp to add back nutrients.
Next? Why I planted some peas. Just in the 16 foot row that I did today. Two varieties--both "baby peas" since those are my favorite type. I will plant another 16 foot section next week and on and on until it gets too warm or I have more than enough. At least that my plan---we'll see if something else interrupts that. Last year I planted peas just about this time, actually 4 days later, but then with the late hard frost they all died. I am going to assume (you know what that means!) that this year will not be like last year and they will make it to the point of me being able to eat some of them.
I also transplanted some of my kale plants out of the cold frame, giving each their own nice spot in the freshly dug area and their very own Juicy Juice "cold frame". I have been saving these juice containers specifically for this reason. They work great and our one of my favorite things for early transplants. Those nice large apple cider glass jugs would be nice but 1. you need a great place to store them year to year and 2. skill to cut off the bottoms. One of these days maybe.

Next I started my poppy seeds inside in one of the little plastic "greenhouses" I use. I have them down in my room where it is usually very sunny but still cooler at this time of year---perfect for poppies. The other day I had noticed them coming up outside in the garden beds. This was exactly what I had been waiting to see to know when to start my seeds. Outside I have just one variety but this year I am starting 6 other varieties (one is a perennial form) to add different flower shape and color.

Lastly I am putting up a picture of my carrot thinnings---smashingly colorful aren't they! Especially on that orange cutting board. These are Cosmic Purple if I remember correctly. They are very sweet and nice tasting. Some of the thinnings are almost too small to eat but even so they are still not as bitter as some varieties can be at that size.
Next week, or as soon as the weather is good, I will do another row for my peas and put some carrots at their feet instead of Kale. I have a number of varieties: red, purple and yellow (one white too I think) to plant. I really really like carrots either fresh from the garden or baked slowly in the oven with just a bit of butter and REAL maple syrup on them. Sometimes I use brown sugar but usually maple syrup. Baked slowly until tender they are way way way better than boiled or microwaved. Can't be beat for taste. Yum.

I am glad planting is starting---now I have something to blog about other than nothing at all. :-D

Monday, February 25, 2008

.........but NAIS will keep you safe OR will it?

As I am sure everyone knows Westland/Hallmark Meat Company recently got in trouble for it's inhumane treatment of animals and that the meat recall is now widening. Disregarding the blatant mistreatment of the cows with forklifts and prods the real issue here is the "ill health" of these cows.
For the last few years we (farmers, consumers, Joe Public etc) have been told by the USDA that by implementing a complete and total animal tagging and tracking system that we would have a safer and more secure food supply.
However I would like to use this recent issue of beef recall as a indicator that the NAIS program (aka tagging and tracking system) will NOT have the intended or promised effect AND as such is a complete waste of tax payer dollars. I have always been against NAIS because of its' obvious "Big Brother is watching you" aspect more than the food safety part ---though the promise of food safety by using it has always has been one of the major flaws in my opinion. With this recent problem though we can be assured that NOTHING the national animal identification system can do would have stopped this problem from occurring.
Lets look at the reasons why it would not have helped:

1. The meat company KNEW the animals were sick yet did NOT call the inspector to come and inspect them. Nais can not stop this problem. In no way will Nais effect change when you have "bad" people controlling the system.

2. IF the pictures/film has not been taken of these animals they would have (and have been) ground up and no one would ever have known. Supposedly 25% of all that has been recalled has already been eaten in school lunches. Nais can't do a thing about this and the tags are long gone after the animal is in a package of meat---no trace back available here. However testing our meat after the fact as they do in Europe---now that makes sense and doesn't infringe upon farmer rights or privacy nor does it entail pricey tags for every animal or huge data banks to show where an animal moved to or when it did it. Even if there was trace back available can we say with certainty---seeing the blatant abuse on film---that the original farmer covered up the problem or did it occur at some point during the cattle's stay at the facility. In other words---who would be responsible?

3. This large corporation called Westland/Hallmark Meat Co.----DId you know that they are exempt from application of Nais. So how would that have helped us anyway?

Nais---only helps to destroy small farmers and give creeps like Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. a leg up. As if they need it. It also doesn't do a damn thing to protect us from "tainted" meat. Traceback only works if people are honest and everyone is involved in the program. It doesn't work if only some people are compelled to be in it but others---that have money and lobbyist---are not. It also won't work anyway once the animal is killed and ground----there's no tag in a batch of hamburger meat so that you can use your RFID reader at home and know who raised it and where it came from. The tag is long gone. What happens when someone gets sick, they test the meat and find that "oops" there may have been some sick cows or possibly e coli got in the meat (e coli is much more likely than a cow disease)? That tag obviously doesn't do a thing to help after the fact.

So my question is this: Just exactly HOW does tagging help. Seems to me an inspection system more as the Europeans have would be a much safer solution. After all if I am forced to pay taxes I would like those taxes to go to something that actually works AND creates jobs. NOT to a program that will put small farmers out of business, make it illegal for someone to raise their own food without government intervention AND not make us one iota safer in the end.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Water Use---them's fighten' words

So now the newest of water issues to affect us here in Georgia may also soon affect those in Tennessee.

Think you live in Tennessee and like it? Maybe not in the near future---you may be in Georgia with Toto to your deepest dismay.

The state of Georgia has now decided---since Tennessee won't let them put their darn big straw in the Tn River to suck on it for Atlanta----that they will just annex part of Tennessee. That would be the approximate mile that they say was originally their's anyway. Which by the way falls right into the middle of you guessed it: the Tennessee River.
How about them apples?
Let's not conserve. Let's not SHUT OFF lawn watering peoples water. Let's not reduce new home construction or try improved ways of conservation like water recirculation. Let's just fight for the river, wasting tax payer money, so we can suck it dry just like we know divine right allows us to do.

The absolute dumbest part of this is that all this money being spent could be used to offer rebates (or out right by outs) for people to replace toilets and water reducers. It could hire more people to enforce water restrictions and it could allow for more people to drive around and SHUT OFF the water of people that waste it. But no.......we have to be the absolute most inefficient government that we possibly can. Who the hell votes these people in I ask you? Because it's not me-----my people never get in office. If I vote for you it's practically tantamount to saying "you'll loose now sucker". :-D
Anyway---here's the link to the article from our own Georgia Newspaper the Atlanta Constitution so you can read it for yourself. Here's another from CNN.

Also before we get to much farther let's talk about a serious water issue: power and electricity production. Here's an even newer article about how we need water (the same water everyone wants to drink and water their lawn with) to produce power. Some good information I didn't know about it's use in this article like: did you know that running five minutes worth of hot water uses the same amount of energy as a 60 watt incandescent bulb run for 14 hours? I didn't either---something to chew on for sure.

And just a quickie thrown in for free here's one on Lake Michigan.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More Signs of Spring

I have seen more signs of spring "sproinging" around here. Forsythia blooming (thank goodness not in December like last year) crocus popping up and lots of robins visiting. Yes, definitely time to plant----now just to finish getting over this flue (aka influenza) that I picked up. Thanks for the well wishes from everyone though.

One more sign that it is "that time" of year are my sheep----we see signs of wool break starting. Sadly this may be my last spring with them. Though we are looking forward to the changes we expect this year we are sad (very sad----I have cried) to get rid of our sheep. As with all humans I comfort myself with the "someday maybe I will own some of their decedents again" kind of mental talk. It helps a bit.

Anyway---before things get too deep----I just wanted to put up some pictures of them. Tex (our white ram) is going into serious wool break. It's beginning is triggered by daylight more than anything else. We will allow him to wear his somewhat ratty looking coat for a bit longer since it is still dropping below freezing each night. However he is becoming annoying with it since he dragges himself across everything to try and rid his body of it. As a matter of fact you can see our broken gate in one of the pictures. Not the "top of the line gate", Tex pushed and pushed against it to scratch until a failing bracket (welded on by the gate company) broke. Luckily none of the sheep were hurt since we didn't know this was about to happen and didn't get it fixed before the gate ended up on the ground. I will go today and buy a replacement bolt on bracket and we will re install it.

By the way---the sheep were not very good picture takers today because Mikey (the pyrenee) was dashing and smashing his way around them in excitement for me showing up. I have been very house bound and Mikey just LOVED having me out there---he couldn't contain his enthusiasm :-D The big lug loves me.

Pictures of sheep

Aleda---with her beautiful fleece

group shot

Mom and daughter---both good looking girlies :-)

Princess my only black girl left----some of them should have black lambs though.

Ms Secret---a relaxed looking pause in between Mikey rampages

Friday, February 15, 2008

Early Spring planting

I apologize for both not posting and also not answering emails---I have been very sick. It has been a year or so since I last was sick but boy did I get it good this time. Boredom has finally set in though and I decided to expend a bit of my energy and post a little something today ;-)

Spring planting ---without covers, greenhouses or cold frames will start here in the next few weeks. Peas of course along with carrots and transplants of other "colder" veggies started in the cold frames. Yum---oh how I look forward to it since this is the time of year when the weeds grow slowly and its all about the veggies :-D
Kale is the one that I wanted to talk about today though. It is also one that I had started in my cold frame earlier in the year and ---except for those the chickens nibbled on one hot day when the cover was off----they are ready to move out and into the regular beds. I also have my large plastic juicy juice bottles waiting to cover them in case a particularly cold day or two comes along after they are moved---- but over all they should do well.
Though I did not grow up eating kale (or any greens for that matter) it is hands down one of my favorite veggies. In soups, fresh, on sandwiches, salads and many other dishes I could eat it very frequently. I do love home grown best though. I have never yet figured out if it is just because it is home grown, so therefor fresher, or if it is a different better tasting variety than we buy in the store. However it is taste buds say that my garden grown kale is what they prefer.
As I said previously we have eaten kale a variety of ways but I was looking the other day for a few new ideas and found these recipes entitled 7 kale recipes from around the world (from the Seasonal Chef) . Maybe one of them may entice you to expand your kale repertoire or to try it if you never have previously.

Seven Kale Recipes From
Around the World

Spicy African Kale and Yams
Chinese Sesame Kale
Austrian Kale
Braised Tuscan Kale
Italian Pork Chops with Kale
Bean and Kale Soup
Caldo Verde (Portuguese Kale-Potato-Sausage Soup)

Kale has earned a spot on many nutritionists’ lists of Top 10 Healthiest Vegetables. As a member of the Brassica family of plants, along with the likes of broccoli and cabbage, it is chock full of phytochemicals that are believed to help prevent cancer. It’s also extraordinarily high in carotenes, which are a good source of Vitamin A, which is good for everything from vision to bone growth, and Vitamin K, which is good for the blood. It’s nutritional attributes don’t stop there. Kale is also an excellent source of raft of other nutrients, including Vitamin C, manganese and calcium. Best of all, kale is good to eat – and is easily incorporated into a wide array of dishes.

The best variety of kale for cooking, in my opinion, is an old Tuscan heirloom known by a variety of names including lacinato, or cavolo nero, or blue or black or dinosaur kale, the latter because of its crinkly texture. Baby red Russian kale is the best variety for salads.

The first of these recipes is from Vegan World Fusion Cuisine:Over 200 Award-Winning Recipes, by Mark Reinfeld and chefs from the Blossoming Lotus restaurant in Hawaii. Some of the others are adapted from this extensive list of kale recipes.

Spicy African Kale and Yams

1 large bunch Kale, 4 cups chopped, pressed firm
4 cup Garnet yam, rinsed well, chopped
1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
2 cup Purple cabbage, sliced
1 ½ cup Onion, chopped
3 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon serrano chile, seeded and diced
Hot Sauce, to taste

1. Rinse and drain kale well. Steam kale and yams. Kale should still be colorful and yams should still have some firmness.

2. While kale and yams are steaming, place oil in a large sauté pan and heat on medium high. Add onion, garlic, ginger and chili pepper, cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add cabbage and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add small amounts of water if necessary to prevent sticking. Place in a large mixing bowl with remaining ingredients, add kale and mix well.

4. Add yams and gently mix well.

Chinese Sesame Kale

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound kale (about bunch)
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
Salt and pepper, if desired

1. Mince the garlic cloves. Wash the kale and shake it over the sink. It should remain a little wet. Remove and discard the stems from the kale and tear it into bite-size pieces. Save the stems for another use, such as vegetable stock.

2. Heat the sesame seed oil in the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic to the hot oil and sauté for about 20 seconds. Add the kale and water to the garlic and oil, and cover the skillet.

3. After 1 minute, stir the kale, then re-cover. After 1-2 more minutes, when the kale is wilted, stir in the soy sauce and sesame seeds. If desired, add salt and/or pepper to taste.

Austrian Kale

2 bunches kale, washed
1 clove garlic, minced
½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon oil
1 ½ cup chicken stock or bouillon
4 medium potatoes, quartered
1 stalk celery, chopped
Sour cream, for garnish

1. Cut the kale leaves into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Blanch them in lightly salted boiling water for one minute. Set aside.

2. Saute the garlic and onion in the oil until lightly browned. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, celery, and blanched kale. Simmer together until potatoes fall apart and lose their shape. Stir; season with salt and pepper, garnish with sour cream and serve.

Braised Tuscan Kale

4 bunches kale, stems removed
Salt as needed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ white onion thinly sliced
½ rosemary sprig
1 dried small red chile
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
¼ cup chicken stock or water

1. Coarsely chop the kale leaves and blanch them in boiling salted water, about 3 minutes, then drain.

2. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onion, rosemary and chile. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. When the onion is translucent and starting to color, 3 to 5 minutes, add the kale.

3. Cook the kale over medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often. The kale will turn a deep, almost black color, become soft and then almost a little crisp. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. If the greens get too dry during the cooking, stir in a little stock or water.

4. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve.

Italian Pork Chops with Kale

2 lbs kale
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
4 thick pork chops
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 cup hot water
1 small can tomato paste

1. Soak kale and rinse it thoroughly then simmer for 20 minutes in pot of salted water.

2. While kale is cooking, heat oil in large, deep skillet. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes over low heat. Add pork chops and saute for 5 minutes on each side, then season with salt, pepper, and fennel seeds.

3. Dissolve tomato paste in hot water and add to pork chops. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes, adding water if sauce gets too thick.

4. Drain kale and stir into tomato sauce. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Bean and Kale Soup

1/2 lb. dried Great Northern beans
Water as needed
Olive oil as needed
1 onion, chopped
2 small carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4 cup shredded kale (1 small bunch)
1 boiling potato, diced
2 cup chopped Swiss chard bunch (1 small bunch
1 large tomato, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place beans in large saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Let stand at room temperature overnight.

2. Drain beans and return to saucepan. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 1 hour 30 minutes, reserving liquid. Transfer half of beans to food processor or blender and puree. Reserve remaining whole beans.

3. Heat 1/4 cup oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and saute 5 minutes. Stir in kale, potato, pureed beans and enough reserved bean cooking liquid and water to make 6 cups. Heat over medium heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until vegetables are tender.

4. Add chard, tomato, garlic, rosemary, parsley, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until chard is tender and flavors are well blended, at least 1 hour, adding additional bean liquid if soup is too thick. (Soup should be quite thick.)

5. Stir in reserved whole beans and simmer until heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. (Can be cooled and refrigerated overnight.) Ladle into heated soup bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Top each bowl of soup with spoonful of olive oil, if desired.

Caldo Verde
(Portuguese Kale-Potato-Sausage Soup)

1 large yellow onion, peeled and minced fine
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 large potatoes
2 quarts cold water
1 pound chorizo or similar sausage
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 lb. kale, chopped

1. Saute the onion and garlic in three tablespoons of oil. Add potatoes and sauté for five minutes. Add water, cover, and boil gently for 20 minutes until potatoes are falling apart.

2. Meanwhile, chop and fry the sausage in a skillet and drain, then add the kale, remaining tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and simmer for five minutes. Stir sausage and kale into pot of boiled potatoes. Cook for about 20 more minutes and serve with dark bread.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Public Comment needed----especially in Tennessee

Today I noticed as the "ticker" thing scrolled at the bottom of CNN that there is a company that plans to bring nuclear waste from ITALY and then process it not far from my family in Tennessee before shipping it to Utah to be buried.

Now I say---What the Hell?!?!
I personally am against building more nuclear power plants and I am absolutely against bringing in nuclear waste from OTHER COUNTRIES (for heaven's sake!)

So I did a bit of research and sure enough---they've known since last year. Of course they aren't making it widely available as only some smaller newspapers have picked it up previous to CNN it looks like. Here is one out of Tennessee:
Herald Citizen Online
And here is a small piece of article from the Jackson Hole newspaper:

The company would bring waste through the ports of Charleston, S.C., or New Orleans. It would be 1 million cubic feet, mostly paper, plastic, wood, metal and ion-exchange resins from nuclear plants.

The waste would be processed, burned and recycled at an EnergySolutions plant in Oak Ridge, formerly owned by Durateck, about 25 miles west of Knoxville.

It's estimated about 8 percent, or less than 1,600 tons, would be sent to the EnergySolutions landfill in Clive, Utah.

Anyway it looks as if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is taking public comment until March 12th (The agency published a notice in the Federal Register on Monday. It is allowing 30 days for people to seek a hearing or request to become an intervener on the plan from Utah-based EnergySolutions Inc. ) which is NOT long from now. Please help people like me who will live close and also those directly affected living in TN and Utah and contact the NRC to tell them that you disagree with this!
Here's a link to the NRC and I will tell you right off it is not easy to find your way around. I couldn't find anything directly with this petition. However I did find their "rule" page for public comment here. I know it's not easy---but please ....

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Val Granger from the Woolly Shepherds Diary tagged me the other day for a "meme". Should I say Thanks Val? :-D Maybe not!

Anyway I am suppose to tell 5 things about me and tag 5 others.

1. I am an easily bored person hence the reason why I always seem to have so many projects going at once. But I do finish them---eventually :-D
2. Mexican food is my all time favorite and I could eat it every day
3. I hope to buy a new car (actually used---but new to me) in the near future to replace the very very old truck I am currently driving. I am aspiring to a diesel Mercedes--not a gasser. Oh yes---with leather seats so my badly shedding dog can ride with me.
4. I like beer---rarely wine.
5. I prefer bluejeans to anything else and I liked living in Texas because most of the time a dress up occasions meant you could still wear bluejeans (new of course) and boots.
I'll give you a freebie too:

6. I hated dresses even as a child---but I do occasionally wear them.

I will be tagging:

Nancy of Keeping the Farm since I have never tagged her yet
Robbyn of The Back Forty
Dani of Seven Trees -- another one I have never tagged yet.
Lisa (and Frank) of Mack Hill Farm --they also raise Icelandic sheep
and last but not least
Woody of Woody's Rocky Ridge---so I can see what a guy will post as his 5 things

Small bite to eat?

Here's a good blog site that my husband sent to me with lots of perennial favorites including Girl Scout style "samoa" cookies and my favorite----whoopie pies! Yum!

So now everyone can make homemade versions of all our favorite girl scout cookies---plus more goodies---which I am sure will be absolutely delicious since homemade almost always is :-)

Baking Bites a blog for those who love food. (photo courtesy of baking bites blog)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My sideline project

As IF I didn't have enough to do I have another small project going:

A hat for my head (I do have short hair after all and it gets cold).

I got the pattern from Knitpicks catalog---it was a freebie pattern. It's called rings of cables and it is very easy. I am knitting it in some brown Alpaca (given to me by a fellow spinner --Susan Darling) that I had spun a while back. I decided last night maybe I would add a few rows and maybe some curly cues on the top in some bright crimson merino roving I purchased recently at a show. I started spinning it last night but I am not sure there will be enough for curly cues on the top---just the color band in the middle. Maybe...we will see. I only purchased a few ounces since I didn't have a specific project in mind for it at that time.

Anyway---it will be done soon as long as I don't put it aside for too long while I do other things. It is knitting up quickly ---nothing like the much larger projects I normally choose. Maybe from now on I will knit hats and socks instead of shawls :-)

A few random thoughts

Just a few random thoughts to throw out for everyone to mull over. Things that for some reason or another have come up and I forgot to say.

Don't forget when choosing your livestock for your farm (no matter the size) to consider "types" that were raised for your climate and have been adapted to various situations that arise---more an issue for those of us in the south, especially the "deep south". Things to consider are food intake needs (we don't all have, nor can we grow, large pastures of clover and alfalfa), heat tolerance, problems with disease or parasites, and docility (some people prefer slightly less domesticated animals and some more so)

Also--remember that there are livestock genetics being lost almost everyday as commercial farming pushes them aside. Don't forget groups like the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy when searching for the perfect breed for your farm. Help save a breed if you can and it fits your farm and goals.

I ate chicken last night for dinner---tyson boneless & skinless. How do they alter the flavor AND worse make the texture like over cooked fish? (Just kidding---I really know but I wanted to throw that out there for all of us to think about) We couldn't eat it all---I had to cover it up with baked beans to get over the funky flavor and texture. Yik. The rest went to the dog----as if he needs that crap in his body right? :-)
Home grown is best---that way we for sure know what's in it. Second best? Why raised by a local farmer (and organic if possible).

A quick link for all the "sustainable, raise my own, environmental, watch dog politics" people out there:
Find information, help and discussion groups for all these issues plus more. (Thanks Dani for passing it on!)

Did you know we are still officially in a drought here? Already we are 2" down for the year. However worse is that the nuclear power plants in some areas may have to be shut down for lack of water for cooling. See this article for more info. Just one more reason why we should go with solar or wind---no need to shut them down during a drought. WAIT---they may even help stop severe weather change if we switched to them. Oh money for the oil companies in those technologies.

Lastly----Did you vote in the primary if your state was involved with Super Tuesday? My husband and I voted for two different people---hopefully one of our choices will rise to the top :-) Good luck to all of us aye?!!

Monday, February 4, 2008

My last update on cement floor staining

So we finished the other half of the floor in our downstairs and I have some more things to recommend that I learned.

First---what I did different in the second room.
Instead of (per manufacturer directions) just putting on the stain and leaving it to dry randomly, I went back in and re-spread it after it was about half dry. Using an old broom that we had originally spread it around with I pushed the still wet spots around until the floor was again evenly covered and wet with stain. Then allowed it to dry all the way. In the end I think I got a slightly less mottled look than I did in the other room----a bit smoother and more consistent. I like it better personally.

Second--what I read after we did the first room and I would like to pass on.
Wet your floor down first---lightly. Not only does it allow more time to move around the stain before you get a "dry line" but it also supposedly reduced "blotchy-ness" I can see that it might have helped us to do that as we have a few spots were we can tell it was the specific spot were the stain was poured onto the floor. Another way to reduce "pour edge" is to use a sprayer---all plastic one---which we did not have. We could have done both these things in the second room but I wanted the two rooms to at least somewhat resemble each other so we didn't.

Anyway---as I said I am happy with the look but I now know a few things I would do differently the next time IF I did not want the same look. I will say for sure that if we decorated in the southwestern or rustic style, I would absolutely do it exactly as I did it this time. For a more modern look----I think I would apply the new things I learned when doing it this time like the water and the sprayer and re spreading halfway through.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Guinea Hog Update

Well, it wasn't until Hayden emailed me specifically about our guinea hog Pumpkin that I realized I had not written much about her and how we have progressed since first acquiring her. My apologizes to everyone that I have forgotten to update our progress.

She has grown quite a bit in the 3 ish months that we have had her---but she's still small by anyones standards. Also, as I think I have mentioned before she worked out great as a garden tiller. We owned a pot bellied pig years ago that was not anywhere close to as good of a tiller as Pumpkin is. As a matter of fact---Hamlet (the pot bellied pig) would wander our yard and the neighbor's and never did "till" up anything. Pumpkin is not quite that trustworthy. First because, as I said, she tills like no bodies business. Secondly I would say that she is less domesticated seeming than Hamlet was. Now that doesn't mean that I feel that I couldn't have her for a pet if I wanted, nor does it mean that she is aggressive at all but she is a bit more "forceful" in her desires than Hamlet was.
We have also heard from Heartease Farm (they raise Icelandic sheep like us and also guinea hogs) that they had to put rings in their hogs noises because they were having a problem with them "tilling" the pasture as they ranged with the sheep. So....I hope that helps with the question of digging up the soil.

As far as how we have kept her and caged her what follows is her "normal" routine and how she lives:

She is in a 10x10 dog kennel which is perfect for her. It is too heavy for her to lift up and get out of. Because of the size and weight she would have to dig a hole under it the actual size of her body to get out. She doesn't do that---so it works. Sometimes it looks as if she could---but when rooting around she really doesn't have a rhyme or reason so she just doesn't ever get her holes large enough. Also, we shift the cage periodically. After about a week and a half has gone by we move her cage by at least half the cage width. This is easily accomplished by two people and pretty easy with just one person. Since the corners are meant to come apart they pivot. So I pick up one side and move it forward a bit which torques the cage out of square. I then go to the other side and move it---putting the cage back into square again. I do this until I get the cage to where I want it. In the time we have had her (mid October 2007) we have moved her cage to cover an area of about....40 x 30. A few spots need her to come back to them since the grass was particularly dense and it still needs more tilling. Some areas are ready to plant if I wanted to and the weather was good and some areas---because it rained while she was in that segment ---need a bit of smoothing by me before they can be planted.
So..what will we do with her when the garden is planted? Well, if we work it correctly there should be a few beds that need her periodically during the growing season. Also, I will put her in the chicken pen where the chickens and sheep have compacted the soil pretty badly. I think it would help that area to have her work it over a bit for the chickens to scratch in more effectively. Incorporate that high nitrogen chicken poop too. One thing: I will have to make sure she can't get in the coop since she LOVES fresh eggs and their shells. She would be able to reach the bottom row of nests and could helpy selfy.

Feeding: As you can see in the picture we use low items for food and water---the waterer flips up when she digs near it so it doesn't get broken. She gets dirt/mud in everything so we do scrub everything out at least once a week. We also scatter whole corn as I have mentioned on the ground along with anything that comes out of the kitchen. You do not have to feed pigs/hogs meat if you don't want to but we do (except for pork---we do not feed that to her). Hogs are naturally carnivores. Pumpkin eats every scrap that comes from our kitchen ---even the "yikky" parts we won't eat, leftovers out of the fridge as long as they aren't spoiled, and any meat scraps that come through. I don't feed her raw meat---pigs are susceptible to the similar diseases as humans so I don't take a chance but of course in the wild she would eat raw meat. Eggs, leftover breads, cereal crumbs, avocados, fruit, juices, milk, cheese, noodles etc etc. Anything we would plus more. The only thing she has not eaten yet is potatoes. She doesn't like them.
We also put things like coffee grounds and other things on the ground in her pen to till into the soil. If she likes whatever it is she will eat it. If not, it gets worked in.
Oh yes---as a back up for days with no leftovers or food scraps she get purina hog chow. About 3/4 cup twice per day with about a cup of whole corn sprinkled for her. We have just recently purchased our second bag so it goes a long long way.
Remember too that pigs/hogs are good for cleaning up windfall fruits in orchards , nuts and other things like that.
We also have people who would like to "borrow" our Pumpkin and her cage to work their garden. Other than some squealing and grunting when it's meal time she is easy on the ears and easy to take care of so if you had like minded neighbors I don't believe it would be hard to find numerous places to keep your pigs throughout the year if your garden was smaller than ours.

Oh yes---we have had a number of people comment on Kune Kunes to us too since we have mentioned that we would like one.
Kune kunes are not yet in the U.S. IF someone were willing to go through the process of importation, and its piles of corresponding paper work----you would have many many people eager to purchase from you. Another idea is to try and get embryos sent over---again still fraught with paperwork. Barbara Webb who first brought Icelandics in to the U.S (and only from Canada no less) spent 3, or maybe it was 5, years getting approval. It is a long drawn out process---but not unattainable for someone willing to try. I just haven't wanted to mess with it, maybe someday though. Also---Stuart and Gabrielle had Kune Kunes if you would like to quiz someone about them and how they cared for their pigs/hogs. They are in Brittany though---and they ate theirs recently so really they don't have them anymore :-D